The U.S. intelligence community reportedly intercepted communications of Russian officials discussing damaging information about President Donald Trump and his inner circle during the 2016 presidential race. While the Russian officials could have possibly been bluffing, they purportedly bragged about potentially blackmailing Trump.
On May 30, it was disclosed that U.S. intelligence had intercepted communications in which Russian officials claimed to possess financial information that they could use a leverage against the future Trump administration, two former intelligence officials and a congressional insider told CNN. The names of the Trump campaign members were masked in the intelligence report.
One of the sources stated that the Russian officials were confident that they could blackmail the future Trump administration "through the derogatory information."
The sources cautioned that the Russian officials could have been purposefully lying during their communications because they knew U.S. intelligence would intercept them. One of the sources said that the Russian officials "could be overstating their belief to influence."
Another source warned that the compromising information on Trump and his campaign "could have been exaggerated or even made up."
An anonymous White House spokesperson released a statement blasting the report, asserting that Trump had no financial ties to Russia to begin with.
"This is yet another round of false and unverified claims made by anonymous sources to smear the president," the spokesperson said. "The reality is, a review of the president's income from the last ten years showed he had virtually no financial ties at all. There appears to be no limit to which the president's political opponents will go to perpetuate this false narrative, including illegally leaking classified material."
Shortly after the communications were disclosed, Trump took to Twitter to blast the media interest in his alleged ties to Russia.
"Russian officials must be laughing at the U.S. & how a lame excuse for why the Dems lost the election has taken over the Fake News," Trump posted.
On Jan. 10, an unverified dossier compiled by a retired British spy alleged that Russian officials had been cultivating Trump as an asset and could blackmail him with "kompromat," or comprising material, Buzzfeed News reports.
Trump has refused to disclose his financial information to the public. On May 12, the global law firm Morgan Lewis declared that the president had no outstanding debts to Russian officials or citizens after reviewing 10 years of his tax returns, Reuters reports.
In 2016, Morgan Lewis was named Russia Law Firm of the Year by Chambers and Partners.